A home for harvesting the sun

'Work of art': Home owner Yevrah Ornstein, left, with his builder Tony Baker, calls his new Lakeside Estates passive solar home an architectural masterpiece

Queenstowner is dedicating his new state-of-the-art passive solar home to the memory of his architect.

Yevrah Ornstein’s horseshoe-shaped home at Lakeside Estates was the last house designed by pioneering Christchurch eco-architect Roger Buck, who died early this year.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m the beneficiary of 45 years of Roger’s expertise and extraordinary technical knowledge,” he says.

A former American who settled in Queenstown 23 years ago, Ornstein also had his previous home, at Alpine Retreat, designed by Buck.

“It was another very unorthodox, complex structure, and energy-efficient.”

It wasn’t a fully solar house, however, as its location wasn’t sunny enough, so he sold it and bought a section at Lakeside Estates, off the Kingston highway.

The client and architect spent three years designing a new home, during which their friendship blossomed further.

“Roger was one of the finest, kindest, most honourable and ethical, brilliant people I have been privileged to call a friend,” Ornstein says.

The north-facing, two-level building features a large amount of concrete, along with tiles and schist, that absorb the sun’s heat, which is then released through the house. A skylight is also integral, plus oodles of insulation.

Ornstein likens the home to “a work of art” and also “a beautiful synthesis of art and science”– referring to the ancient art of harvesting the sun, combined with very advanced building materials and sophisticated technologies.

Mid-morning last Friday, the house was 20.5 degrees inside, with neither back-up heat pump being used.

“I think we all have a part to play in the environment – this is my way of contributing.

“This is a manifestation of something I feel strongly about.”

Coming from a building background, he also enjoyed designing the vanities, the kitchen, an indoor/outdoor room called a lanai, the upstairs office and the wooden stairway which he co-designed with Buck.

He also pays tribute to his builder, Queenstowner Tony Baker, who built his Alpine Retreat home, too.

“Tony is the most brilliant, attentive-to-detail builder I have ever met, whose sense of integrity, ethics and honesty is awe-inspiring.

“I have said to Tony on many occasions that this is the most complex, intricate construction I have ever witnessed.”

Baker, who’s taken two years to build the house, says getting sub-trades to work in a timely manner was a frustration.

“I’ve also lost four of my guys since Christmas – these big companies are coming in offering huge money.”

Ornstein will erect a plaque to Buck in a prominent place to pay homage to his architect.

“Roger hoped this would would inspire other builders and architects in New Zealand to build homes like this, and he said this will also be an asset to the community.”